Frank asked me to bake a cake with him the other day. Or rather, he asked me to supervise while he baked a cake.
He’s 11 going on 35 it seems, and it feels like it won’t be so long before he won’t be asking me for anything, except maybe the keys to the car, so I told him we could — just as soon as I could stop at the store and get a few of the ingredients we had run out of.
So the next morning, after working a couple of hours, I stopped on the way home to buy shortening and eggs and frosting. Homemade frosting is much better, but takes a lot of beating, and I find that store-bought frosting can make the difference between having fun and having an ordeal when making a cake.
Once I got home, I had to spend some time dealing with Teresa, who missed her mama when she woke up that morning and wanted some mommy-time before her nap. While I was getting her settled, Frank asked if he could just put the dry ingredients together by himself. Sure, I said. Just double-check the measurements and if you’re not sure of something or run into a problem, just wait. I’ll be ready soon.
From Teresa’s room, I could hear him get the stand mixer out of the cabinet and start pulling out sugar, flour and baking soda. It got really quiet before I heard the broom handle bumping the stove.
“What happened?” I called.
“It’s just really hard to hold dustpan and the broom at the same time,” he replied, not exactly answering my question.
“But if the floor’s a little grainy later, it’s because it’s really hard to sweep up sugar,” he went on. Aha. Spilled sugar.
Then, as I emerged from Teresa’s room, he was surprised at the cloud of cocoa powder that rose as he tried to scoop it into a measuring cup. There’s a reason I usually put waxed paper or a towel down on the counter before measuring cocoa powder.
But things progressed smoothly from then on. I fetched and put away milk and shortening and vanilla; he measured and poured and mixed. I greased and floured a pan while he broke the eggs and mixed some more. He poured the batter into the pan; I scraped the rest out with a spatula. He put the pan in the oven and I set the timer.
Then he went to play while I wiped up the floor.
About 35 minutes later, the cake was done and cooling. He took it out of the oven and then I went to take a shower before Teresa woke up.
I waited too long; by the time I made it back to the kitchen, she was up, sitting across from Frank and digging into a piece of freshly baked and frosted chocolate cake, garnished with blueberries.
Jesus tells his disciples that his Father will listen to their requests, because “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread?” (Mt 7:9). And what parent would turn down a child’s request not just to have cake, but to make it and share it?
Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at email@example.com.